By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
PLANNING chiefs have been urged to examine their consciences after approving a controversial scheme to build houses on a former railway line.
Up to 74 homes can now be built on the 6.6 acre site off Walkley Terrace and Brunswick Street in Heckmondwike.
The railway cutting, which has been disused since the 1960s, is viewed by many locals as a ‘green corridor’ in the town.
But members of Kirklees Council’s Strategic Planning Committee voted to support the plan to re-model the land by cutting away some areas and placing soil in the bottom of the cutting to provide an area where houses can be built.
Plans to transform the cutting, long considered one of the town’s few wildlife havens, were opposed by scores of residents.
Several spoke at the meeting in Huddersfield Town Hall, addressing issues such as highway safety, congestion, drainage and ecology.
They made their comments following a public meeting on December 14, which many considered to be rushed through, giving objectors no genuine opportunity to state their case.
Heckmondwike councillor David Sheard, the deputy leader of the Labour group on Kirklees Council, warned that the old railway line, used as a cycleway and walkway, was considered an alternative to the Spen Valley Greenway if that route was given over to a potential new railway line in the future.
Speaking on behalf of local objectors, Victoria Harrington said given that the application breaches several planning policies she and her fellow opponents were ‘shocked and appalled’ at the decision, which went through on a 4-3 vote.
She said: “We made a number of strong arguments (for) protecting Heckmondwike from the continuing over-development that we suffer here and we were disappointed that the majority of the committee did not seem to take any of these issues into consideration.
“We cannot understand how the planning officer, Glenn Wakefield, can in all conscience recommend this development unless he and the rest of the Kirklees planning department have come to the conclusion that Heckmondwike has gone down the pan and it makes no difference if the last bit of space is developed.”
She added that the development “brings no benefit to Heckmondwike. It will cost Kirklees dear in terms of the drainage, engineering and traffic issues that it will cause, and it will have a negative impact on Heckmondwike.
“We would like to believe that the planning department approached this application in an objective, even-handed manner and were fair to all involved.
“It is hard to have faith in such ideals in light of the decision.”